Massachusetts + Metal = Wicked Brutal Pissa
New England Hardcore and Metal Festival
April 13/14th 2001 @ The Palladium in Worcester, MA

by: Adam Wasylyk
Ah yes, another road trip. Although a bit early this time around, as our usual haunt of the infamous summer festival the Milwaukee MetalFest has been usurped by the springtime annual New England festival. This year being my first in attendance, reflecting back I must admit, despite not being floored by many of the bands on hand, this was the best scheduled and most effortlessly planned music festival I've had the pleasure to see. Bands played when they were supposed to, cancellations (which are always inevitable) didn't slow things down... it's nice to see some order to the chaos the bands on hand were in the process of delivering.

My lasting impressions of the venue, the Palladium, aren't too great. Featuring two stages -- the "Main Stage" and the "Second Stage" -- is a good idea simply because of the diversity of the acts on hand. For example, death/black metal fans could check out Vital Remains while those into the noisecore spectrum of music could witness Burnt by the Sun. There was always a band to check out which matched one's tastes in music, which I'm sure all in attendance were thankful for. My only beef was how small the second stage was, causing standing room only and preventing some from seeing bands simply because of lack of room. The acoustics were average, but that pretty much met the expectation I had going in, so no disappointments there. I hear the venue will be changed to a bigger one that sits close by, which should be a smart move as I only see this festival gaining momentum and popularity in the years to come.

The CoC contingent this year consisted of yours truly, the editors Gino and Adrian, along with CoC alumni Alain and Steve. Along with a lot of metal went the usual chemical consumption by some of our crew, including plenty of green (and I'm not just talking about Heineken) and Jager for all.

Day 1

The first band I was able to check out wasn't the greatest way to get things started in my mind. Pessimist took to the Main Stage and surprisingly left a lot to be desired. The shoddy sound had a big hand in it, along with my complete unfamiliarity with the material being played. If any of it was old stuff, I wasn't able to recognize it. I know the band have had line-up problems recently, so that may have factored into it, but what I heard was indistinguishable from the many generic death metal band's I've forgotten about over the years. A true disappointment.

Having seen Vital Remains before, it was a good opportunity to check out Burnt by the Sun. Powered by the drumming prowess of Dave Witte (ex-Human Remains, Discordance Axis), the Relapse signee ripped through a half hour set to a -packed- Second Stage. The track "Lizard Skin Barbie" was but one highlight in the noisecore/grind set these guys churned out. Lethal.

It was now time to see just how bad Catastrophic could get. Having been completely turned off by their debut album _The Cleansing_ [CoC #52], this was their time -- their second chance essentially -- to prove me wrong and to give me a reason to re-explore their music. Proving that I do know something metal, they went to sound like the pretenders that they are. Some have said they sound like an invigorated Obituary... bah! Just because a band contains an ex-member of Floridian death metal legends Obituary doesn't equate to a spin-off band being as good. Their sound can't compete, in any way, to the gods of this music -- Nile, Morbid Angel, Death... even Cannibal Corpse. There's really no reason for this music. Catastrophic -are- the weakest link. Goodbye.

Having seen Monstrosity once before, I was expecting the band to turn in another good performance. Boy was I wrong. Making it to the stage just in time (to the threats of the P.A. guy who announced "Monstrosity to the stage, this is the final time, Monstrosity to the stage"), they fell beneath the bad sound emanating throughout the Main Stage and couldn't free themselves. Sure material like "Fatal Millennium" and "Imperial Doom" is a great idea to perform live, but not coming out of these speakers. I can only pray that I see them again in a better venue, as I know this set wasn't indicative of their live performance.

Checking out my set list for the rest of the night's festivities, I soon found that the Main Stage was a lock for the rest of the night. The time in between I was able to peruse the suffocatingly small space the vendors occupied, and become better familiar with the structure and architecture of the building I currently resided. The main stage has a nice gothic feel to it, very similar in both mood and look to the Opera House in Toronto, Canada, but ten times the size. It's unfortunate that the acoustics were so poor, as bands would fight them the entire length of the festival.

The Main Stage would soon see one of the biggest tours in metal thus far in 2001, featuring Lamb of God, The Haunted, Dimmu Borgir and Cannibal Corpse. By about 9pm the news circulated that the first night had sold out... metal had indeed scored a big one that night.

Lamb of God had the task to begin the four-band tour off, and they did so with a lot of gusto and flair. The noisecoric and jagged metal riffs from the guitars were only magnified by the pissed-off vocals and stage theatrics of singer Randy Blythe, who prowled the stage like a madman and made machine-gun gestures to the thousands in the crowd. A great warm-up for what was to come.

The Swedes in The Haunted put on a good performance of their style of metal, which sat well with me, but failed to "move me" in any significant way. Indeed tracks such as "Hate Song", "Bury Your Dead" and "Hollow Ground" were performed exceedingly well, but I'll admit that the excessively melodic nature of the band gets to me. When it gets to sound a little too happy or bouncy, well, that ain't me. The crowd respectfully and faithfully gave the band an enthusiastic response, visibly affecting the band. They deserved it, despite my occasional indifference.

Dimmu Borgir were to follow, sure to appease those who crave for pseudo-orchestrated black metal. Opening to an orchestrated piece and a green-coloured fog, the Norwegians entered the battle arena to lay claim to lost souls and badly corpsepainted fans. A good number of fan favourites mostly came from the past three albums, songs including "Spellbound by the Devil", "Master of Disharmony", and a big chuck off their newest LP _Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia_ [CoC #52]. What did I think? I thought they were capable of attaining some serious atmosphere and chaos, but oftentimes fell into a foray of banality which, again, may be in part due to a lack of the good acoustics a band such as Dimmu Borgir depend on.

Deciding to retire early, the preference to hang out and sleep early than to bear witness to the brutal death metal stylings of the closers to the tour, Cannibal Corpse, was too strong. The rest of the night is clouded in memories of green haze and harsh black liquids.

Day 2

Day two began with a slight hangover, but a brisk shower and sunny, warm weather had a positive toll on my head. Forgoing as many forgettable bands as possible, I arrive to see Skinless closing out their set. Playing a powerful blend of mosh-heavy riffs and sick blast beats, Skinless performed a good deal of their Relapse debut _Foreshadowing Our Demise_ [reviewed in this issue], much to the delight of their many fans in attendance. Definitely a band who has potential to perhaps one day lead the brutal death metal scene. Yes, they are that good.

Disappointingly, Gorguts had cancelled their set, so Exhumed stormed the stage to the tune of their brand of gore metal. Furious death metal was accentuated by projectile vomiting, fire breathing and corpse head vomiting... how could someone -not- like this? Damn entertaining, hope to see more of them sometime soon.

The rumour started to circulate that this was Dying Fetus' farewell tour, although this has been discounted by the band on their website, so fans can rest easy and expect a new line-up for future recordings. Playing a tight and brutal set, which is what has made these guys so popular, kicking into "Killing on Adrenaline" ranks as one my favourite moments at the Fest. My only criticism is with their new vocalist, who takes care of the mid-range growls. His vocals aren't bad, but don't quite measure up to ex-bassist/vocalist Jason Netherton, whose former role in the band may never be filled properly. Nevertheless, it was a very powerful set, easily one of the best.

Sweden's Opeth opened to the rousing cheers and shouts of their many fans on hand, delivering a powerful set of their championed melodic death. Despite my alcohol-soaked brain, gems like "White Cluster", "Forest of October", "Advent" and "The Drapery Falls" were performed effortlessly, although they would perform said songs in Toronto about two weeks later with much better sound. But it was nice to enjoy Opeth with what was at least 2000 people minimum, many showing their appreciation with the flame of their lighters. Powerful set.

I've always had a love/hate relationship with Amorphis in a live setting. I've always felt that the members never do their recorded material justice. After seeing the band a couple of times in the past, apparently #3 was the trick as it finally offered me a set of Amorphis music I could enjoy. Plush with high quality tracks ("Greed", "The Castaway", "My Kantele", "Better Unborn"), their set was an enjoyable one if not perfect. I still believe their treatment of "Black Winter Day" does not signify the brilliance of said track, but that's just me. And Tomi really needs to start singing the growls again, as even though Pasi is getting better with time it still isn't the same. Oh well, I exist in frustration.

Time for Meshuggah! They proved to be the perfect band to headline the second and last night of the festival, as Meshuggah hold musical qualities that both hardcore/noisecore and metal fans can enjoy. Mosh heavy and maniacal, I guess this is as good a place to discuss the "moshing" that went on during the festival. I don't know what they call this in New England, but back in Canada we call that assault! Flying fists and elbows, blind kicks... I'm surprised I didn't hear any serious injury stories during my stay. Anyhow, Meshuggah picked a great set list to perform, songs like "Sane", "Future Breed Machine" and "Vanished" were vomited forth and eagerly devoured by its most rabid fans. There's still debate as to whether "Transfixion" was played... if it was, I must have gone momentarily deaf during its performance. A great way to finish the Fest off, with thoughts of possibly attending next year as strong as ever.

My favourite moments of the Fest: hangin' out with the CoC crew, watching some brave soul breakdance in the mosh pit, the brutality (Skinless, Dying Fetus, Meshuggah), the melody (Opeth, Amorphis) and meeting friends both old and new. Thank you all for making it a great Fest.

(article submitted 13/5/2001)

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